Will Cloud-Based Work Platforms Permanently Replace Offices?

by | May 21, 2020

Prior to Covid-19, only 3.6 million Americans worked from home on at least a half-time basis out of the approximately 75 million Americans with work-from-home-friendly jobs. But we may now be at the precipice of a seismic shift in those numbers. 

In recent weeks, Capital One informed its 40,000 workers they will work from home until after Labor Day. For Amazon workers, the report-back date is set for October.  

Companies to Employees: Stay Home Until 2021…or Longer 

But some companies are making even bigger movesGoogle, Square, Apple, Spotify and more have told their employees they could stay home until 2021. Not to be outdone, Facebook and Twitter just told employees they could work from home indefinitely—even after we put COVID-19 behind us. 

While these moves are appropriate given the current situation, it begs the question: do we ever go back to the way it was…or is Twitter appropriately the canary in the coalmine of a massive, permanent change afoot?

The Legal Impetus to Keep Work-From-Home 

Robust risk management isn’t just a nice-to-have for big companies; it’s a primary factor in most decisions large organizations make in a variety of arenas…and having employees work from home as the rule rather than the exception certainly fits that modus operandi. Here’s why: 

Suppose a healthy employee, working from home for the last couple months, is called back into the office after lockdown is lifted, and days later, they test positive for COVID-19. Is the employer at fault and liable for damages? Quite possibly. 

Right now, corporate attorneys and boards of directors around the country are closely analyzing this situation…and that’s just one potential lawsuit vector. There’s alsoworkplace bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, etc. A home-based workforce could go a long way to mitigate such litigations, which routinely cut deeply into corporate bottom lines. 

Allowing employees to work from home may just be less risky all-around, especially now as modern technology has made it possible to virtually close the distance with aplomb. 

“Working from home is a great thing for the company and for the employees, who don’t want to get back in cars and commute for two hours. That’s lost productivity. I see it happening way more in the future,” said Joan Burke, chief people officer for San Francisco-based tech company DocuSign, to The New York Times. 

“This is such an unprecedented situation. Businesses want to step up and do the right thing, but we know this is an insidious virus. And even in doing all the right things, it’s really hard to control its spread,” added Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, to NPR. 

Few companies have turned coat on their regard for traditional office life as drastically as Zillow, the online real estate firm based in Seattle…and yet another company to tell its 5,000-employees they can work from home until 2021. 

I don’t see those numbers ever going back to where they were,” expressed Dan Spaulding, Zillow’s chief people officer, in a recent interview. “Our bias against working from home has been completely exploded. Our company is not seeing any discernible drop in productivity.”  

And then there’s the traffic.

In recent years as urban sprawl has, well, sprawled and commute times and distances have ballooned, workers in major metro areas can easily spend upwards of 15 to 20 hours per week just getting to work and back again. And these road warriors the world over would undoubtedly agree: it takes a toll. Time is precious, and commutes like this leave little of it for family life, hobbies, and socializing.

Just think about it. In the last 30 years, the nation’s thoroughfares have progressively grinded to ever slower snarls…with morning and evening “rush hours” now bleeding into each other to create all-day gridlock in many metro areas. And all over the country, state transportation departments have been engaged in perpetually losing pursuits of wider highways…by the time a project gets completed, the newly widened highway is already jam-packed again, thanks to the massive new suburban subdivisions that were concurrently under construction. 

We Can Help You Make the Transition from Office-Based to Home-Based Enterprise 

Tons of companies already allow their employees to occasionallyor even semi-regularlywork from home. However, a company that’s held together entirely by virtual bonds—instead of a physical office—is a very different animal. As such, true virtual enablement requires a comprehensive, customized approach. 

You see, we have been in the information management business for nearly 50 years, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned during that time, it’s that even the most powerful information management “system” requires precise attunement to the unique needs of an organization. And this level of customization is not available as an off-the-shelf solution.  

The right solution often incorporates several off-the-shelf solutions along with custom-built software that fills in the gaps of the unique organizational contours in a company. 

And that’s what we do here at Imaging Office Systems.  

The world—and business as we know it—is transforming before our eyes. And you really shouldn’t wait to adapt. Now is the time to begin the process…the design process of our new world and your place in it.